Apple’s plans to integrate its devices in cars have ramped up from first to second gear. The company announced three car brands will soon sell vehicles equipped with CarPlay, which transforms vehicles into mobile iPhones.
Apple has driven around this particular block before, as the company has already introduced its technology into automobiles. At last year’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue told the crowd 95 percent of cars currently sold incorporated music playback and control from an iOS device. The same conference teased iOS in the Car, what Apple called its automotive initiative the first time around. “What if you could get iOS on the screen that is built into your car so that you can make phone calls, play music, go to maps, get your iMessages right on the screen in your car or eyes-free using Siri?” Cue asked.
Now Apple has resurrected the idea of iOS in the Car, this time under the name CarPlay. The Cupertino behemoth’s new system puts iPhone apps and capabilities in a 4-wheel casing and “takes the things you want to do with your iPhone while driving and puts them right on your car’s built-in display,” according to CarPlay’s website. Drivers in CarPlay-enabled vehicles can use voice activation or the vehicle’s buttons, knobs and touchscreen to calls people, send and receive messages, and play music. Siri, Apple’s vocally-controlled assistant, plays a crucial role here as the interface allows drivers to do all the above hands-free.
Other perks include an intelligent Maps service that can forecast where users want to get based on addresses from their email, texts, calendars and contacts. Plus, CarPlay leverages support for a few apps that aren’t Apple-branded, like Beats Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, and iHeartRadio, with more on the way.
Apple’s swerve into the automotive sector marks the company’s increased focus on convergence. The new direction proves necessary as technology companies battle for attention from automotive vendors that will eventually need their products to satisfy mass demand for connected cars. Research company SBD anticipates that by 2018, nearly 36 million new cars will get shipped worldwide with embedded telematics, a number approaching a third of all cars shipped for that year. The GSMA and SBD predict the connected car market will swell 200 percent from 2012 to 2018, from €13 billion ($18 billion) to €39 billion ($54 billion).
Apple isn’t the only technology company with its eyes on the road. Google has recently prioritized developing automotive innovations. The company is working on self-driving vehicles, and its mapping app has a definitive edge over Apple’s offering. According to comScore, Google Maps reached 43.1 percent of the smartphone app audience compared to Apple Maps’ 23.2 percent share in October of last year. This past January, news broke of an Open Automotive Alliance, an initiative to usher Android into cars. Its members: Google, Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai and NVIDIA. The Android platform served 52.2 percent of smartphone subscribers over Apple’s 40.6 percent in October 2013, according to comScore — so even though CarPlay might come to automobiles first, it may see less adoption than an upcoming Android system.
At last year’s WWDC, Cue said Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Chevy, Volvo, Acura, Nissan, Kia, Jaguar, Ferrari, Opel, Hyundai and Infiniti would debut iOS integration in 2014. The company announced that Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles will present CarPlay to consumers this week. Later, the integration will come to more brands like BMW, GM, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Jaguar, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Suzuki, Toyota and Subaru.
Despite its popularity and success, Apple has only a limited range of devices on offer to consumers. That narrow focus of smartphones, music, tablets and TV makes Apple vulnerable to major shifts in any of those markets. Putting its technology in cars may keep the company steered in the right direction for sustained success.